How to Drink Tequila Properly: Sip me, Don’t Shoot me!


by Melissa Jimenez

With my previous article, Tequila’s Rich History at a Glance, I thought that it would be appropriate to follow with an interview with a past tequila judge of the Monterey Tequila & Mezcal Expo. The event will be here before you know it and it would be best that you get familiar with drinking tequila like a real connoisseur! An interview with Ralph Jimenez.

MJ: Would you mind telling us a little about yourself and your personal history with tequila?

RJ: My name is Ralph Jimenez and am a MontereyCountynative. I had seriously gotten into tequila since 2005 and helped a good friend of mine who was putting together a tequila event by the name of Omar of CYO Events three years ago. I have been getting more progressively involved each year with the Monterey County Tequila Expo and last year, I had the privilege of being a tequila judge which was a great experience overall. This year I am honored to be an event chairman for the MTME Margarita Showdown that is a kick-off to the MTME event on October 17th, 2011 at The Clement.

MJ: I know that there are so many different brands of tequilas manufactured as time progresses. What is the first thing you look for when choosing quality tequila?

RJ:  The first thing that you look for when choosing a quality tequila, it has to be 100% agave. There are generally two types of tequilas, 100% agave or mixto. A mixto means that all the sugars that are in the tequila are not derived from the agave plant. The manufacturer can add other ingredients such as sugar cane, molasses, or any other sugars.

MJ: What are the appropriate steps to drinking tequila properly?

RJ: Preferably, you should not drink tequila out of a shot glass or caballito. If you are drinking a tequila that you want to enjoy to the fullest, you want to have the proper glass. There is a glass approved and certified by the CRT of Mexico that Reidel manufacturers that is shaped similarly to a champagne flute. If you don’t have a Reidel tequila glass available, a cognac or brandy snifter does well also.

The first step you take when pouring your tequila, you observe the color. Depending on what kind of tequila you’re drinking, you’re looking for specific color characteristics. If you are drinking a blanco, you’re looking for complete clarity with no rainbow hues. If it is a reposado or an añejo, you are looking at the color that it partakes from the oak from the time that it has been in the barrel. Also, when looking at the glass after the tequila is poured, you can look at the tears of the tequila. The tears that are left on the glass has to do with the concentration of alcohol that is in the tequila.

After observing the tequila’s color, the next step is appreciating the aromas.  There are a variety smells that the tequila has depending on the type of tequila you are enjoying. If it is a blanco tequila, you are looking for a smell of a good agave that the tequila is derived from. You want to look for what people describe as a “wet cement” smell because it’s earthy and it’s often a sign of a good blanco. With reposados, añejos, and extra añejos, you often can pick up hints of vanilla, butterscotch, and caramel. These aromas also depend on the length of time that the tequila spends in the barrel and what type of oak that is used during the resting period. You are also able to smell different aromas if you bring your nose close to the brim of the glass and if you put your nose directly inside the glass to inhale it.

Next, you want to take a sip of the tequila. You want to be sure to let it sit on the tip of your tongue for about 10-15 seconds and then swallow it. This process will allow you to pick up the different flavors on the tip of your tongue, and once you do this, be sure to lick your lips with the tequila so that you prep your mouth for drinking the tequila. You take a second sip of tequila so that it coats your entire pallet and look for the viscosity of the tequila. The tequila could leave your mouth feeling oily, watery, etc. When you continue to drink the tequila, you also want to pick up the complexities, like the bitterness or sweetness depending on the different type that you could be drinking. Remember to enjoy the tequila with every sip taken and it will always be a pleasurable experience. ¡Salud!

Melissa Jimenez is a native of Monterey Bay, CA. She served in the United States military for six years and currently works for a non-profit organization. She has a deep love for baking, writing, music, and art. Melissa received her Bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University of Florida in psychology.